Edible Paris: Rue Mouffetard

Our apartment is but a short walk from the well-known food street Rue Mouffetard. Unlike Paris’s many wide boulevards, Mouffetard is a relatively narrow street and parts of it are closed to auto traffic. Wikipedia says it’s been used as a thoroughfare since Neolithic times (imagine that!). We went there on Saturday afternoon, and again today. The street has several interesting gift, clothing/accessory, and book shops, but the bulk of its business is gastronomic: cafés, restaurants, traiteurs, a few tea shops, a couple of chocolatiers, many boulangeries and pâtisseries, purveyors of meat and fish, specialty food stores, produce markets, and Picard — a Parisian chain store that sells only frozen foods.

At the foot of Rue Mouffetard

{as always, mouse over to read my notes, or click images to enlarge}

Produce stand next to the Église Saint-Médard


Fresh pastas in a glass case


Outside display at a poissonnerie, at night

Outside display at a poissonnerie, at night, with customers looking at the fish

I find Rue Mouffetard a very accessible mix of touristic and local. On the southern end, closest to us, you have all food shops, and the rest of the neighborhood is not touristy at all. On the opposite end, some of the restaurants cater a little more obviously to foreigners, yet the area is also a hop from the Sorbonne and other schools. So the tourists aren’t so numerous as to be obnoxious, and in the meantime, the shopkeepers are accustomed to non-Parisians (read: people who don’t know what they’re doing… like me).*

Sweet and savory tarts in the window of La Maison des Tartes

Macaron display at Boulangerie L'Essentiel Anthony Bosson

Inside Boulangerie L'Essentiel Anthony Bosson

Today we just made some purchases (fish — merlan, which is whiting or silver hake — and bread, tarte tatin, and flan) and then went home, but on Saturday we wandered for quite a while. There was a big brocante going on — a sidewalk sale of antiques and vintage items — and that took us out into the side streets as well. Naturally there were more food places along those streets, too.

Religieuses and other pastries at Carl Marletti

As the sun went down, it started to rain.

Rue Mouffetard in the rain

We ducked into a small crêperie where we had a sandwich and a chestnut crêpe, and were waited on by a nice couple (and stared at by their young daughter). Food in Paris is mostly expensive — even ingredients, I feel, cost more than they do at home — but when we got the bill for 8.60€, Erik thought it was a mistake. It was not. (On the other hand, five chicken legs ran us more than 15€ at the boucherie!)

When we left the crêperie, the rain had eased up, and we went from shop to shop, gathering ingredients for dinner: fat carrots, creamy-colored parsnips, trimmed leeks, a head of lovely pink-tinged garlic; fresh gnocchi and tiramisù from an Italian deli; chicken legs that were moderate in size but which proved incredibly flavorful.

At home, I browned the chicken, cooked the chopped-up vegetables (plus onions) in the oil, then simmered chicken and vegetables together with water (adding gnocchi near the end) while I talked to my best friend over the internet. Before serving, I put the chicken by itself under the broiler for a few minutes, to re-crisp the skin.

Chicken leg with carrots and gnocchi

I didn’t really know how it was going to turn out, but it was fantastically delicious, and we had leftovers for days. It’s fortunate that a city where it’s expensive to dine out also happens to be a city where it’s very, very fun to food-shop and cook!

*By the way, the only places in Paris where I’ve had unsolicited English spoken to me were in museums and on Rue Mouffetard. And in all cases, our encounters began and ended in French, with only a bit of English to help things along. I must say, I was a little embarrassed, but mostly very grateful, to have a dizzying selection of yogurts explained to me in English: “…and this one is sheep’s milk…”! And now I know that what I like is yaourt nature au lait entier — unflavored whole-milk yogurt.